“VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE & SHELTERS”
DHSS needs urgent expansion of their shelters. Their current situation is demanding it. With the increase of resident young adults suffering from domestic and sexual violence, battered women with children, homeless, abandoned, underage pregnancy, clients held in custody due to immigration status, the limited space only caters to a few. The DHSS (VOCA) Victims of Crime Act & (VAWA) Violence Against Women Act shelters are hosting beyond their capacity to accommodate adequately, in providing for those in need of shelter and protection.
Our unreliable system is perpetuating this major flaw. Another major concern is paying federal funds in placing victims of violence in unfurnished apartments lacking basic refrigerator and stove. With the increase of social diseases, it reveals a system not victim sensitive or focused.
The sad practice is to convince the victims to seek shelter within their own families. Mind you probably 2/3rds of victims have no roots in American Samoa. Samoans, Asians, Filipino’s, Fijians, Tongans, are faced with returning to the abusers or families already faced with over crowding and unemployment issues. Therefore victims are deprived of the full protection ASG is supposed to provide. These displaced victims are prone to fall prey to predators or offenders who repeatedly violate their probation conditions or Civil Protective Orders.
If expansion is not feasible, the other option could be to revisit foster care again and reenforce the past failed areas. Ideally the Tafuna Lua and Tolu street blocks would have been ideal for the needed expansion rather than a vehicle showcase lot for a private business venture.
There are many known DV families that are growing yet unable to care or provide for their young. Unfortunately the children should be removed and placed where their health, security and welfare is provided until the parent can show proof they can provide for them.
With millions of federal funding coming in and the lack of vision to address our social ills other than food stamps, American Samoa is just perpetuating a feeding frenzy of gluttony and creating ghettos and uncharted communities living in squalor. We deliberately turn blind eyes to our messed up housing situations.
Many private home, landlords and land owners are taking advantage of the desperate homeless. Some call it ‘alofa’. They illegally rent out unlivable, unhealthy, abandoned and fire hazard buildings that should be condemned. Undeveloped areas are breeding squatters.
We, the government, cannot keep feeding these situations while knowing and allowing our people to live in unhealthy squalor for lack of housing.
Mayhap our Fono members will #1- address expansion for shelters to assist the growing demands and needs for victims of domestic & sexual violence, Child abuse, abandonment etc. #2- Consider a law involving Samoan Affairs in addressing our housing issues for a fast growing population.
These are random observations and thoughts of interest to a victim advocate.
Ipu Avegalio Lefiti, Victims Advocate